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July 2024

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The Governor’s Strategic Water Supply Proposal

As chairman of the Questa Economic Development Fund (QEDF), I read the Governor’s Strategic Water Supply announcement (https://www.governor.state.nm.us/2023/12/05/) and was struck by its boldness and vision. Increasingly constrained freshwater resources are one of the great challenges faced by our great state. Most notably, this effort will turn our growing oil and gas industry into an asset for transitioning New Mexico into a net-zero carbon economy.

I see immediate benefits to the Village of Questa and Taos County if the 3 acre-feet of water treated daily by the treatment plant at the former Questa Mine could be included in this effort.

  1. Treated water could be provided to a renewable energy producer or a manufacturer newly recruited to our community. Questa already has a business park and land which can easily house such operations.
  2. Local green hydrogen production could fuel heavy haul trucks on the Questa site remediation. It also could make Kit Carson Electric Cooperative’s electricity production 100 percent renewable.
  3. The project could include built-in revenue streams for the Village
    of Questa, the QEDF, and our
    local acequias.
  4. High-skilled jobs would be
    created for Taos County and
    neighboring areas.
  5. Increased GRT for the Village of Questa and Taos County.
  6. The Questa Mine Superfund Site would be converted from an environmental liability into an environmental asset by supporting New Mexico’s energy transition.
  7. Most importantly, by enabling the use of brackish water in the central and southern parts of the state, there will be fewer demands on our ground and surface freshwater resources in the north. This will reduce efforts to permanently remove water from our community.
    Given the crucial role the private sector will play, the QEDF stands ready to work with project developers and operators, whether they be Chevron, WSP (the current water treatment plant operator), KCEC, Avangrid, or those not yet operating in New Mexico.
    Additionally, as the QEDF continues to work with the Office of the State Engineer, Chevron, and the Village of Questa for resolution of the outstanding water rights issue, we see the Governor’s Strategic Water Supply push as a complementary effort and perhaps even part of the solution.
    Thank you, Governor Lujan Grisham for your leadership and vision. I fully support this legislative effort and look forward to working with you on its implementation.

Malaquias Rael is Chairman of the Questa Economic Development Fund, a local business owner, and a former Mayor of the Village of Questa.